For the second time in five years the Gryphons will spend Reading Week in Florida.
The Gryphons are to hold their winter training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys to bond,” head coach Kevin MacNeill said. “It’s a great team-building experience for our guys. There’s going to be a lot of football involved and a lot of skill development that we’re going to be focusing on and the by-product of all that is going to be team bonding. We’re going to see our guys come even closer together.”
That certainly was the case in 2014 when the team stayed in a hotel in Orlando.
“It meant quite a lot just to spend time with your fellow freshmen and to spend a week together just to get to know each other that much better,” said linebacker Derek Drouillard. “To get to know the vets and to know the system really helped us get integrated into the team and it really helped the family atmosphere that we were trying to create.”
None of the players who made the first trip to Florida will be going this time as all have used up their five years of eligibility.
“If they could sneak us under the bus, that would be nice,” Drouillard joked. “We had our time and we enjoyed it. I wish I could’ve gone a second time, but …”
That first winter camp in Florida helped give the Gryphons a jump on their season.
“It helped us get ahead on a lot of our systems and just getting everyone up to speed on the systems,” MacNeill said. “Every off-season is a good opportunity for the non-dressers to really lean the O and D and be in a position to not be thinking so much on the field, but reacting. It just helps escalate that progression.”
“It really translated into every aspect of our team,” Drouillard said. “It translated into that off-season and how many guys stayed in Guelph and wanted to be around each other. In the locker room, how close we were in the locker-room, how committed we were in the film room and also our performance on our field.”
This year’s trip is for the players who should be attending the team’s August training camp provided they have kept their grades up. Like last time, it’ll be another opportunity for the close-knit group to become even closer.
“It’ll be nice to get to the warm weather. It’ll be fun and it’ll be like training camp and team bonding with the boys. It’ll be nice,” offensive lineman Eric Starczala said. “The football will be fun. There’ll be a lot of practices and meetings.”
It will also give the players a chance to deal with the changes in the play book such as new plays or new terminology.
Starczala isn’t expecting that to be a problem.
“It’s pretty easy to pick it up because normally it’s like just one adjustment or one new play that isn’t hard to pick up,” he said.
While there’ll be plenty of football during the trip, it won’t be strictly on-field workouts for the players. And there’ll be an excursion or two off the IMG campus.
“There’ll be a lot of football, we’ve got some speakers and we’ve got a beach day, too, to give the kids a little bit of time off,” MacNeill said. “We’ve got to go to the beach at least one day.”
But football will be the focus of the week.
“Being at the IMG campus, it’s going to be a little different than last time,” MacNeill said. “We’re ending with a scrimmage this time around. In the past we just practised for four or five days, this year we’re going to end with a scrimmage so it’s going to be a little bit different practice tempos in order to be ready for a scrimmage on the last day.”